Wednesday, September 15, 2021

River of Raptors



Vaia Errett's in depth article is out now in the Fall 2021 issue of Outside Bozeman. Grab a copy of the free magazine or read it online here. It was a pleasure working with Vaia on the article. She did a really good job of capturing the science and magic of raptor migration in Montana.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

2021 Duck Creek Pass Eagle Watch survey terminated

On 3 January 2020 I began my research into what the current status was of the Duck Creek Pass Eagle Watch, specifically if standardized counts would be occurring there in the fall of 2020. The result of 41 back and forth emails and approximately a dozen phone calls was:


- A long term camping permit from Helena – Lewis and Clark NF had been secured.


- It was confirmed that Montana Audubon would no longer be conducting sporadic counts at the Duck Creek Pass Eagle Watch.


What wasn’t the result of the 41 back and forth emails and phone calls:


- No financial support of the 2020 effort.


- No volunteers were secured for the 2020 effort.


What was the result of Montana Golden Eagle Research 2020 effort:


- 2219 migrating raptors of 17 species were observed and 416 hours of observation were made by one observer.


-  A 42-page Raptor Migration Report was submitted to Helena – Lewis and Clark NF in February 2021.


-  Approximately 6,000$ of funding was secured for ongoing efforts at Duck Creek Pass Eagle Watch (fall) and the Cave Knoll Eagle Watch (spring).


- On 12 April, 2021, a one-hour video presentation on the research conducted in 2020 was provided to Upper Missouri Breaks Audubon Society.


On 16 June 2021 I began my research again into beginning the fall effort at Duck Creek Pass. The result of 3 emails and 3 phone calls was:


- My long-term camping permit from Helena – Lewis and Clark NF was going to be extended for 4 more years.


On 27 July 2021 I was made aware of the Woods Creek Fire by Helena – Lewis and Clark NF. On 2 August I began researching the alternate count site at Grassy Mountain at the southern end of the Big Belt Mountains. My plan had been to count temporarily at Grassy Mountain until an exemption could be secured for a return to Duck Creek Pass later in the season. The result of 54 back and forth emails (9 of those on 30 August just to set up a phone conference between 4 individuals) was:


- The Helena-Lewis and Clark NF confirmed my ability to access Grassy Mountain as needed to conduct my standardized count indefinitely when the effort at Duck Creek Pass wasn’t possible due to fire or other climatic conditions like snow made observing difficult.


- Despite a 7 August email from Mike Welker of the Townsend District Helena – Lewis and Clark NF stating he hoped there would be an opportunity to get me into Duck Creek Pass, on 2 September he had reversed course. He stated on 3 September via email that,


It is the National Forest System Area Closure for the Woods Creek Fire that precludes access to the National Forest—and that is for public health and safety—which presents the challenge for your work.”


He was referring to the closure notice I had been made aware of on 27 July 2021.


The afternoon of 2 September the 2021 effort was terminated after a dismissive conversation with Mike Welker. Mike Welker, Townsend District Ranger for the Helena – Lewis and Clark NF inability to comprehend the location I was trying to access, the current status of the roads by which the site is accessed, the timing of when the count was conducted and the impacts of the closure on the fall effort has caused significant impacts to the Montana Golden Eagle Research budget. These expenses are:


- 376$ annual rental fee for a White Sulphur Springs storage unit to store gear and firewood.


- On 22 August the fall count was initiated and terminated on 2 September. 81.5 hours of observation were conducted at a cost of 600$.


- 2.40$ of data sheets were used.


- 2,928 unnecessary miles were driven from my home in Nevada at a cost of 590$ in fuel expenses.


- 956$ of food, meals and lodging expenses.


- Since I had ongoing work in the South Hills of Idaho for another two weeks with the University of Wyoming, I forfeited 1,124$ of paid work.


Total unnecessary expenses that impacted the Montana Golden Eagle Research budget: 978.40$.


Total of unnecessary expenses that I have to absorb as a volunteer: 2,670$


A reoccurring sentiment I have gathered from my efforts to coordinate my research with Helena – Lewis and Clark NF, Montana Audubon, Raptor View Research Institute and the Teton Raptor Center is that all representatives of these organizations are “notorious” for not responding to emails or phone calls. The suggestion was to keep calling and emailing when I did not get a response. Unfortunately, I do not have the time required to track down what people aren’t following through on. It has been stated that I feel ignored if I don’t get a response, which is false. Being a small one-person effort, I continue to plan and make arrangements with organizations and partners that do respond to my inquiries. If I had waited for anyone to get back in touch with me, Duck Creek Pass would not have an ongoing standardized count being conducted. As a result of this years attempted effort, I will not be coordinating any of my ongoing efforts with the Helena – Lewis and Clark NF. It is much easier to get relevant information online than reaching out to the NF. When I do get information from the NF it is mostly incorrect. It is better to forgo 40-50 emails and dozens of phone calls each season that contribute nothing valuable to the survey. Additionally, 3 separate parties that I know of who had travelled to the area from out of state in an effort to volunteer as additional observers had to make other plans on short notice.


Currently I am considering several options for the future of the Duck Creek Pass Eagle Watch survey effort. These are:


- Continue the effort at Duck Creek Pass


- Discontinue the effort at Duck Creek Pass


- Volunteer as an additional observer for the Rocky Mountain Eagle Research Foundations ongoing effort in Canada (now in their 25th year)


If anyone has any opinions as to how to proceed, please do contact me with your thoughts.


I now value my relationship with private land owners more who support my research on their land. Their support goes above and beyond the USFS. I also value my relationship more with Upper Missouri Breaks Audubon who supports my research with funding and the ability to handle my private donations by acting as a pass through entity for my 501c3 status. Additionally, Beth Hill the treasurer of UMBAS responds to my emails in a timely fashion!

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Woods Creek Fire and the Fall 2021 Raptor Migration Survey


The issue getting the fall count underway is fire. Below I will include a pdf of the fire closure notice and a link to the InciWeb site with the current fire information. You will note that the current closure impacts my ability to count from Duck Creek Pass for the time being. I did want to acknowledge that my ability to conduct the survey isn’t more important than the ability of fire personnel to conduct their operations safely or the concerns of area land owners whose property and homes may be impacted. I hope everyone in the area stays safe as this is a significant and erratic fire. Currently the Woods Creek Fire is over 40,000 acres and 3% contained. As such I will be moving the primary observation site to a location near Grassy Mountain which is just south of Highway 12. I will do my best to update the directions to this site, which is reported to be pretty easy compared to accessing Duck Creek Pass. I am not sure what my cell service will be at this site though, so I am not sure what my ability will be to update the blog nightly from this location or to answer emails. If you haven’t heard back from me, I likely don’t have access to email or my phone. I am optimistic that by the time peak migration arrives (the first two weeks of October) I may be back over at the Duck Creek Pass location. I will do my best to update the blog if I am able to move back over there.


While I was writing this post and researching the current fire conditions at the Woods Creek Fire I noticed there was an evacuation notice in effect for the Grassy Mountain area home owners. Highway 12 was temporarily closed. I then attended a Zoom Community Meeting and the Helena - Lewis and Clark National Forest Service folks mentioned that due to the weather they are having (some lightning, high winds and a little precipitation) the smoke was lying very low making visibility difficult in the area. The Meagher County Sherriffs Department thought at that time the fire was closer due to the thick smoke than it actually was. A few hours after the evacuation and closure went into effect it was lifted. However, this underscores the fact that anything can happen with this fire and currently it is increasing in size.


This morning thanks to Denise Pengeroths help of the Helena - Lewis and Clark National Forest Service I was put in touch with Mike Welker of the Townsend Ranger District. Mr. Welker was optimistic about the potential of a possible exemption for my ability to access the preferred observation point near Duck Creek Pass sometime in September. This would be extremely beneficial for being on site prior and during peak migration.


Thursday, April 8, 2021

Upper Missouri Breaks Audubon Society Presentation info

If anyone is interested I will be presenting next Monday for the Upper Missouri Breaks Audubon Society on the research at both Cave Knoll and Duck Creek Pass for the 2020 count season. It is approximately a 45 minute presentation with 15 minutes for questions at the end of the presentation. Here is the details on the presentation:

Hawkwatches 2020 - Cave Knoll and Duck Creek Pass

When : Mon, April 12, 7pm – 8pm (MST)
Description: Montana Audubon is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: UMBA is helping sponsor a spring and fall hawk watch.  Adam Richardson is counting in the spring at Cave Knoll (near Rogers Pass) and in the fall at Duck Creek Pass.  With one full season completed find out what he has seen so far, what happened this spring at Cave Knoll and expectations for the future of these counts.

Join Zoom Meeting

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

2021 Cave Knoll Hawk Watch Spring Count has begun

The 2021 Cave Knoll Hawk Watch Spring Count is underway. There has been a steady movement of primarily Golden Eagle and a few Bald Eagles. Tomorrow I should break 100 raptors which is a good start to the season. You can get the daily flight summaries over on the blog here or click on the Cave Knoll Hawk Watch photo on the right hand side bar.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

2020 Cave Knoll Hawk Watch Raptor Migration Report

Cave Knoll Hawk Watch looking west towards the divide
Cave Knoll Hawk Watch looking west towards the divide

The 2020 Cave Knoll Hawk Watch Raptor Migration Report is completed. You may read the report here. Or head over to the Our Work page and click on the link there. I am hoping to have the 2020 Duck Creek Pass Hawk Watch Raptor Migration Report finished here shortly as well. I will make sure and upload the file and post a link on the Our Work page as well.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Duck Creek Pass Hawk Watch season opener tomorrow

Just a quick note to follow along over at the Duck Creek Pass Hawk Watch Blog to get posts about the daily flight summaries. All preparations have come together nicely just in time for a fantastic fall up at Duck Creek Pass.